August 19 to 27, 2000
We just completed two great pelagic trips from Hatteras, NC over the past weekend, where we saw 15 species of pelagic seabirds over two days. Herald (Trinidade) Petrels were again a highlight, and Saturdayís trip found FOUR of them, which I believe is the record high count for the western North Atlantic. Sundayís trip only had one, but that particular bird lingered at close range around the Miss Hatteras for about TEN MINUTES! In addition to providing the best view of the species ever on one of these trips, this light morph bird was the 17th individual that we have seen this season, and the 10th in the last two weekends. Iím not sure of the exact cause of this remarkable influx of these rare petrels, but hopefully it will continue for a while longer. We still have a LOT of spaces on our trips aboard the Country Girl from Manteo THIS WEEKEND[9/2, 3, & 4]. On Saturday and Sunday we have trips scheduled to search for White-faced Storm-Petrels, and on Monday we have a regular Gulf Stream trip scheduled. Reservations for Saturday and Sunday are $195/ person for the two trips, and if single day slots are available they will be $100/person/day. Mondayís trip is $95. These are all day trips that usually last 11-12 hours. We saw a WHITE-FACED STORM-PETREL on our first search trip about two weeks ago, and while we missed them the following weekend, the conditions were not prime for finding them that weekend. We also have room on our Virginia Beach pelagic trip on Sunday, Sept. 17, which is an all day trip from Lynnhaven Inlet to the shelf edge costing $95/ person. This too could be a good place to see a White-faced Storm-Petrel.
I hope that some of you can join us for these trips. September is a good time to see Long-tailed Jaegers, and pretty much all of the rarities that have been seen on these trips have been found in September as well as July and August. Passerine and shorebird migration on the coast can also be exceptional with the right weather. Be sure to check out our seabird images scanned from photos taken on our trips. If youíd like to talk to me about pelagics, please call me at (252) 986-1363 evenings before 9PM.
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July 15, 2000 to August 14, 2000
Since July 15, weíve run nine pelagic birding trips from the Outer Banks of North Carolina- six from Hatteras Inlet and three from Oregon Inlet. The majority of these trips have found an excellent diversity of pelagic bird species and large numbers of seabirds as well as some remarkable sea mammals and fish. July trips on the Miss Hatteras were good for tropicbirds, with a total of at least four seen over three of our four trips that month, including one right next to the boat during a heavy downpour on July 15! Participants on our July 15 trip also enjoyed good views of a Feaís Petrel. Herald Petrels have been hard to come by compared to some summers, but we did have a distantly seen one on July 30. Some more common species were found in greater than usual numbers on some trips. Sooty Terns and Pomarine Jaegers were quite common in July, and we had 4 South Polar Skuas on July 30. Band-rumped Storm-Petrel numbers have been boom or bust. We had only 5 on August 5, then a record-breaking 234 the next day on basically the same route. As Iíve said many times before, it pays to take two trips.
We just completed our first White-faced Storm-Petrel search of the summer over the weekend and found success around 2PM on Day One, with a bird that came into our fish oil slick behind the Country Girl about 40 miles east of Oregon Inlet. We were able to follow the bird for about 20 minutes and enjoy watching itís peculiar bouncing and sailing flight. This was the second White-faced Storm-Petrel reported from this area so far this summer. Hopefully there will be more. We still have room on WFSP search trips on Sept. 2,3. This is a two day set that targets the species in an area north of the Gulf Stream. The strategy is to search likely areas for the bird until one is found or two days are up. If we find one on the first day, then we may go to the Gulf Stream on the second day to search for other species which are more likely there. The cost of each set is $195 and this includes two boat trips on the Country Girl from Pirates Cove near Manteo.
In addition to some twenty species of pelagic seabirds seen on these trips, we saw several Cuvierís Beaked Whales, Spotted Dolphin, Bottlenose Dolphin, Rissoís Dolphin, and Pilot Whales, a breaching Sperm Whale on July 29, and four Fin Whales on Aug. 13. Trolling for pelagic fish produced two Blue Marlin, which we released, a few Wahoo, and several Dolphin, including the rarely seen Pompano Dolphin.
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July 15/16, 2000 From Hatteras, NC
Last weekend, on July 15 and 16, we ran two pelagic trips to the Gulf Stream aboard the Miss Hatteras, sailing from Oden's Dock in Hatteras Village. While Saturday's trip was rainy with choppy seas, Sunday's trip was clear with exceptionally calm seas. We saw many more birds in total on Sunday, but it was Saturday's trip that produced the best rarities.
During a heavy rain on Saturday morning, we just happened to drive right up on a White-tailed Tropicbird resting on the water. It was so thoroughly soaked that it had little inclination to fly, so we were able to approach it within a few feet. Less than an hour later, we were able to get out of the worst of the rain, and another tropicbird appeared, this time flying off the stern of the boat. Amazingly, at about the same instant, I spotted a Feaís Petrel flying toward the bow, so we shifted our attention to that bird, which gave good looks while we chased it for the next few minutes. Saturday's trip was also good for storm-petrels. We saw three species including 43 Band-rumped and 11 Leach's Storm-Petrels, with many individuals close to the boat.
Sunday's trip featured better weather and more birds, but less variety. Our best birding find that day was a Manx Shearwater sitting right next to an Audubon's. The highlight for many of us on Sunday though was a group of six or seven Cuvier's Beaked Whales which allowed us to approach very closely for what should be great photographs. The last one to dive even threw his head clear out of the water giving us a spectacular look at the face, which I have rarely seen so well before. Our efforts at fishing didn't produce much action, but we did catch a small Blue Marlin on Saturday's trip. This was our first blue marlin of the season and it makes it five years running that we have caught at least one a year while birding on the Miss Hatteras. It was also the quickest that I have caught one - about ten minutes.
Someone asked me on Sunday if the weather was too nice for good birding. I had to say no as we have had some of our best trips on calm days. There are just some days that don't produce any rare petrel or tropicbirds. While these birds are regular, they are RARE. That's a good reason for taking two consecutive trips on a weekend.
Click here to see the official sightings list.
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